Four years ago, Maize lost to its biggest rival 35-7.
The Eagles lost to Maize South for the second time in two tries in the rivalry and went on to finish 1-8. Friday, Maize flipped it almost exactly, beating the Mavericks 35-0 for the first time in school history and captured its second straight regional championship.
A lot has changed in four years, Maize coach Gary Guzman said. And he isn’t done yet.
“Every year you hope to get a little bit better, and you hope you learn,” Guzman said. “I’m still learning, and hopefully I’ll always feel that way, and I’m sure I will. I’m blessed to be here.
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“I’m blessed to be at this place.”
Friday, the Eagles’ defense was outstanding, putting pressure on Maize South sophomore quarterback Colin Shields and containing two of the more elusive players in the Wichita area, Corey Minks and Andrew Bliss.
On the other side of the ball, the Maize offense was high-flying as it put up 21 points in the first quarter and held on until the fourth when it fired up again, ending with a circus catch on a pass from senior quarterback Caleb Grill to junior receiver Preven Christon.
The Eagles are 9-1. They are in the middle of one of the greatest seasons the city of Maize has seen, just four years removed from one of its worst.
“It was tough to watch,” Grill said of that season. “When we were freshmen, the coaches told us, ‘This is the group that could turn it around.’ I feel like a big part of our class has done that.”
Guzman has been at Maize for eight years. He has been around the Wichita area for more than three decades, spending 21 years at Kapaun and a handful at Southeast. He helped build those programs, too.
Grill said in his four years, he has seen the program turn into one to be proud of, and a lot of that is because of Guzman.
Grill is verbally committed to the South Dakota State basketball team. He doesn’t have to play football with his future mapped out. But he said Guzman has a way of getting his players to buy in.
“I want to help take this program to another level,” Grill said. “These other kids helped me get a scholarship in basketball, and I’m just trying to help them get a scholarship in football someway, somehow.”
Since Guzman arrived at Maize, the other team in the city, and his opponent Friday, has been one of the preeminent in the Wichita area.
Maize South had five regional titles, a state semifinal appearance and 16 more wins than the Eagles from 2012-17. Friday, Maize took the city back.
“Each year we’ve just gotten a little better,” senior linebacker Carson Shively said. “Hopefully we keep going on this season, but I think it comes down to hard work, commitment and really just locking in and being in it together.”
But the Eagles are still only back where they were at this time last year, at 9-1 heading into their Class 5A sectional. Last year, Maize went out 26-14 to the eventual champion Bishop Carroll.
Guzman said this year’s group feels similar to last year, but he couldn’t have gotten the program to where it is without his staff and players like Grill, Shively and some of the other Eagle standouts.
Seconds after the Eagles got their hands on their regional championship plaque after waxing the Mavericks, there were rings from the huddle:
“We have more to do.”